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Monday, November 29, 2021

Ex-Enron prosecutor to investigate sexual assault claims at Princess Beatrice tech firm

Afiniti, the embattled technology company, has appointed a former Enron prosecutor to investigate sexual assault claims against its former chief executive.

Leslie Caldwell, who led the US Justice Department’s task force on the energy company, will lead the investigation.

The Afiniti founder, Zia Chishti, resigned as chief executive and chairman last week after a former employee testified that he had sexually abused and harassed her during her 18 month tenure at the company.

David Cameron, who was chairman of Afiniti’s advisory board, resigned a day earlier and the company had come under pressure from investors and customers.

Ms Caldwell, a partner at the law firm Latham & Watkins, made her name investigating Enron, which became one of the biggest financial scandals of all time when it collapsed in 2001. She later became the assistant US attorney-general, in charge of the Justice Department’s criminal division.

Despite Mr Chishti’s resignation, questions over what Afiniti’s board knew and the company’s workplace culture have remained.

On Monday, Afiniti confirmed that Larry Babbio, a former executive at US telecoms giant Verizon, would become its new chairman. 

He said the board would form a special committee to investigate the claims against Mr Chishti, led by Ms Caldwell.

“As chair, my immediate priority is to keep our people safe and ensure that we continue to deliver the best possible service for our clients. This investigation is an important and necessary first step in building a better future for Afiniti,” Mr Babbio said.

Last week, Tatiana Spottiswoode testified to the US Congress that Mr Chishti, 50, had “groomed” her from the age of 21 and abused and demeaned her during work trips. She said one encounter had left her with injuries and that the company had continued to pursue her after she resigned by lodging legal action against her father.

Mr Chishti, a Pakistani-American who had formed close ties with a series of political leaders and business executives, said he refuted the claims, but resigned two days after they emerged.

Afiniti, which makes call centre software, had come under pressure from major customers.

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